Granulated, raw, powdered, brown: can you distinguish the differences among all these types of sugars? To understand the basic distinctions between the different types of sugar, you must first understand how sugar is made. The sugar we use as sweetener comes from juice extracted from plants that naturally have a high amount of sugar: sugar beets and sugarcane. The juice is purified and filtered, then boiled down and crystallized. A byproduct of the crystallization process is the liquid sugar we call molasses. To separate the crystals from the liquid, the sugar is put in a centrifuge. The result is basically raw sugar (with a light brown tint), which is further refined by clarification using chemicals to bleach the color. Now you have white refined sugar, or the granulated sugar you buy at the grocery store.
Regular granulated white sugar isn’t the only type of sugar that’s made in this process. First comes the byproduct of molasses, which is great for baking. After that, other sugars in varying shades from light brown to very dark brown are made before you get highly processed white sugar. Here’s your guide to different types of sugar that you should know about :
- Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar – The finest white sugar that you can get. It is about 3 percent cornstarch to help keep it from clumping. It’s used for making icing or gazing baked goods.
- Granulated Sugar – The white tables sugar that everyone is accustomed to. It’s the one most commonly used in recipes.
- Coarse Sugar – White sugar that has a much larger crystal size. It’s often used for decorating.
- Turbinado Sugar – This is raw cane sugar with the surface molasses removed. It has a coarse texture and a blonde colour.
- Brown Sugar – The brown sugar that we purchase in the store is often granulated white sugar with molasses mixed back in. This can be done at home in your food processor by adding one tablespoon of molasses per cup.
- Muscouado Sugar – It is a very dark natural brown sugar, that has a higher concentration of molasses left in. It has a stickier texture than most sugars. It’s used in strongly flavoured sweets such as gingerbread.
- Honey and Maple Syrup – You can replace granulated sugar with maple syrup or honey in most recipes. Use 3/4 cup maple syrup or honey for every 1 cup granulated sugar. When baking with maple syrup or honey, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons for every cup used and reduce the oven temperature by 25F to avoid burning. Maple syrup and honey can be used interchangeably.